An 11-year-old sixth-grade student was arrested after refusing to stand for the national anthem in his classroom, which led to a confrontation with a substitute teacher.
The incident took place at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida, and was sparked when the unnamed student told the teacher that he would not stand because “the flag is racist and the national anthem is offensive to black people.” As the Ledger reported, the teacher then ordered the boy to stand, but he refused. School staff called the police, and the boy was arrested.
A spokesman for the Polk County Public Schools said the boy was arrested for “becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement” and stressed that the arrest was not because the boy refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance. But this seemed to be in conflict with the report that the substitute teacher repeatedly instructed the boy to stand for the pledge.
The report identified the substitute teacher as a woman named Ana Alvarez. The district said that the teacher will no longer serve as a substitute for the Polk County School District and that officials would review their training policies with an outside agency that hires substitute teachers.
This is not the first time that a student’s refusal to stand for the national anthem has captured viral attention. Not long after NFL player Colin Kaepernick started to take a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality against minorities, a number of other students and high school sports teams started similar protests.
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As the Sacramento Bee reported, some of these were met with a harsh response from school administrators. In Louisiana, the superintendent of the Bossier Parish school district issued a statement supporting schools that punished students who protested during the national anthem.
“In Bossier Parish, we believe when a student chooses to join and participate in a team, the players and coaches should stand when our National Anthem is played in a show of respect,” Scott Smith, the district superintendent, wrote in a letter to schools. “It is a choice to participate in extracurricular activities, not a right, and we at Bossier Schools feel strongly that our organizations should stand in unity to honor our nation’s military and veterans.”
But the report noted that this policy appeared unconstitutional, citing a 1943 Supreme court decision that schools could not force students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. Many groups, including the ACLU, argued that this applied to schools threatening to punish students who took a knee during the national anthem.